Climate Change in the Classroom
PASCO Solutions Turn Students Into Climate Scientists
Former high school science teacher David Tucker of Bellingham, Washington, is no stranger to the use of technology in the classroom. PASCO scientific’s data collection technology and Tucker’s hands-on approach to science was an important part of his curriculum at Mount Baker High School in Deming, Washington, where he taught for 31 years and earned a Presidential Award for Excellence in science teaching. Today Tucker is using his expertise to help science teachers address an important and timely issue—climate change.
“Today’s students are the future guardians of the earth, and for that reason educators must work together to inspire and educate them in the science of climate change,” said Tucker. “My goal is to help teachers expand students’ understanding of the scientific concepts of climate change, and teach them how to use sophisticated, sensor-based data collection technology to do real scientific investigations.” In essence, he said, “we want students to experience the power of sensor-based data collecting tools, just like climate scientists do.”
Climate change is a critical environmental issue. There is a real need to get climate change science into curricula; but, unfortunately, most teachers are not prepared to infuse these new activities into their teaching or redirect some of their presently used activities. Many are also unfamiliar with using sensor-based data collection and analysis tools, although many research studies show that using digital tools in science and math class can significantly enhance students’ learning experience.
” Aside from a few programs that focus on decision-making activities there is little emphasis on teaching climate change in core science curricula, according to Tucker. “My goal is to help teachers expand their understanding of the scientific concepts behind climate change, and then challenge their students to create their own investigations using digital tools that model the ones real scientists use,” he said.
Tucker conducts workshops in the North Puget Sound area of the state to help fourth grade through high school teachers create data collection activities. One of the technologies Tucker uses is PASCO’s SPARK Science Learning System, a mobile all-in-one discovery learning environment that allows students to mirror what real scientists do— conceptualize, think, act and communicate using digital technology. This is important because today every major science relies on digital technology.
Tucker also uses PASCO’s Xplorer GLX graphic datalogger, MyWorld GIS, a geographical information system designed for students; EcoZone, a system designed to help students model and understand the complex interactions within different ecosystems; and a wide range of PASPORT digital sensors.
In addition, Tucker helps teachers align climate change topics with Washington state science standards and infuse activities into their curriculum. Last summer, he gathered 26 teachers at the Puget Sound Energy (PSE) Retreat Center of Baker Lake for a workshop called “Science to Action,” funded by PSE, PASCO and Northwest Air Pollution Authority.
Tucker's work doesn’t stop when the workshops end. He often goes to schools to help teachers integrate what they’ve learned. “I’ve had particular success using sensor-based data collecting tools with those middle school teachers that use FOSS, a research-based science curriculum for grades K—8 developed at the Lawrence Hall of Science at University of California
at Berkeley,” said Tucker. Since FOSS is centered on students learning important scientific concepts and developing the ability to think critically by
actively constructing ideas through their own inquiries, climate change is a perfect fit. In particular, the FOSS unit called Populations and Ecosystems is a perfect place to incorporate sensor-based investigations on photosynthesis, greenhouse effect, carbon sources and sinks, and albedo. Tucker said PASCO’s EcoZone is perfectly suited for these “big idea” investigations.
Tucker hopes the outcome of his workshops will be teachers going to district curricula committees and showing them how climate change science activities can be included. He also hopes to extend his program statewide. He’s already written three years worth of materials to support his effort, and is seeking grants from sources such as the National Oceanic Atmosphere Administration, or NOAA.
“We need to promote climate change at a higher level,” he said. “There are very sophisticated, powerful and mobile data collection tools available to schools, which gives students the ability to conduct investigations anywhere—in the classroom, outside, at home or around the neighborhood.”
The ultimate goal is to give students the knowledge and ability to collect, manipulate and analyze information using real world tools that are used by today’s scientists. While many of them won’t go on to pursue science as a career, hands-on science learning can lead to something just as important:
active citizen climate change scientists.